Cruise boss Simone Clark says many holidaymakers this year are swapping a beach holiday for life on the ocean waves.

The MD of independent travel agency Planet Cruise says bookings last month were up 30% on the previous year suggesting 2016 could be a record year for passenger numbers.

Simone says: “January was an incredible month. European cruises have seen such a huge boost in bookings already and we expect this trend to continue over the coming months as holidaymakers look to experience an alternative to European beach package holidays.”

Bookings for European cruise holidays this January were up 168% on the same time last year, followed by cruise holidays to the Far East, with an increase of 69%. Voyages to the ever-popular Caribbean also saw a boost, up 59%.

Planet also saw a huge increase in passengers flying out of regional airports across the UK, with Manchester witnessing the winner, up 57%.

Research identified the Middle East as the fastest growing region for cruises, up 800%. Canada and Alaska are also among the fastest growing destinations, up 275% and 186% respectively.

Luxury cruises are also proving more popular than ever, with sales of six-star cruises up 200%.